Staff Feature: Ude Mbolekwa

img_2125Meet Ude Mbolekwa, LEP Job Developer, World Relief Spokane

I was born in South Africa, I am South African. At the age of four I moved to Mozambique and that’s where I grew up as a missionary kid. We moved there in 1996 and my mom became a missionary full time in 1999 working with World Relief. So ever since a young kid I was involved with World Relief, but it was a different mission then because they were working with locals in the community and my mom worked mostly with children. They would do clubs every week, meeting with the kids and doing bible lessons. So I stayed in Mozambique for 13 to 14 years and I did all my schooling there. In 2012, I came to the States to pursue my intercultural degree from Moody. When I found out there was a World Relief here in Spokane it wasn’t hard for me to get connected with it because I had been involved with World Relief pretty much my whole life. I started volunteering here at World Relief spring semester of 2013. I worked with families just kind of helping them get acclimated here to Spokane, helping them with English and with the kids. I did that for pretty much my whole 4 years at Moody, and then my last 2 years I helped with teaching the citizenship class. That was pretty much my involvement initially. I graduated in May 2016 and then I had to do an internship to complete my requirements for my bachelors. World Relief was one of my options for the internship, so I interned with the employment department and then at the end of the internship a job position opened up and that just flowed. It worked out very well.

My favorite part of my job is everything essentially. Getting to meet all the people that I’m working with or helping with employment. For me I just feel like it’s a small small small part of helping the refugees when they come here. My favorite part would be seeing that whole process come together and them finally having a stable job, hopefully, by the end of it. The hardest part of the job is seeing needs with the refugees that cannot be met at the time, like for example with jobs. I know that a refugee needs a job as soon as possible, but then I know that this refugee has barriers that need to be taken care. Maybe English is a big barrier, or the skills that they need to get a job is a big barrier and then it is hard to find a placement for them because of those barriers. So that is something difficult to try and work through, just balancing out that they need a job but they cannot yet get a job because of those barriers. So it’s been hard to try and navigate through those waters.

Behind my heart for working for refugees is that I have a strong strong strong desire for people to offer belonging since I grew up in a different culture in Mozambique. I was still South African at heart, so I knew my identity. One of the things that drew me to start working with refugees was that you have these people who all of the sudden were told to leave their country, to pack up your clothes and just leave, and then at the end of the day you pretty much don’t belong anywhere. They live in camps, some of them live their whole lives in camps, and they essentially don’t have an identity. Like they don’t belong to anybody or to any country. So helping them even when they come here to the States, just with employment or helping them get started with their life again is a beautiful thing for me. Essentially, after five years they become American citizens, and they can finally belong to a community again and be Americans or whatever country they are in that they are restarting at. For me that’s something that I would like people to know about refugees, that they are also people and they should belong somewhere as well, not just in limbo, in refugee camps, in between countries trying to find a place to belong.

My passion, while having grown up as a missionary kid, is just helping people who are vulnerable or don’t have the means to help themselves. I wanted to work with orphans and widows back in East Africa because those are pretty much a marginalized group of people who people don’t want to work with or they don’t have many resources. Just helping those in need and who don’t have that many resources or connections to get the help that they need. I guess that would be encompassing, including my passion with helping them find their identity or a place to belong and helping people get back on their feet.

 

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